I’m sitting here laughing at myself as I’m writing a post about how to do nothing since I have written for years about how I’ve been working on saying no and slowing down. Even looking back at posts from a couple of months ago, I was focusing on learning how to do nothing by slowing down, resting, and relaxing. Particularly after a car accident I was involved in.
Learning How to do Nothing
Being intentional about rest and relaxation is not something I’ve been good at in my adult life. As I’ve gotten older, I have recognized the importance of slowing down and not having all of life scheduled. I’ve been observant of those who are enjoying life, while also taking time for self-care. In recent months has become part of my routine to take some time to sit on our front porch and either sit a spell in the rockers or swing on the porch swing.
Since being home, I’ve been able to observe our neighbors, but also David. While David is still working, he is also using this time to relax and rejuvenate and taking in nature when he can. For me, I have been trying to set boundaries on my work, limits on my schedule, and making sure to take time for myself both indoors and outdoors. It is important for me to remind myself that it is okay to lower my typical high expectations and that it is okay to realize that this is a once a life time event where we are trying to keep masses of people alive and well. Reframing this thinking has helped me learn that it’s okay to do nothing sometimes. While I typically thrive on a schedule and a to-do list, not having those things doesn’t mean I’m less than.
Prior to this, a typical day for me included waking up early, responding to emails and messages, working, driving through a drive through to eat a fast lunch, attending work meetings, driving to and from site visits and doctor’s appointments, squeezing in an hour of self care through hot yoga, maybe attending a blog event, or working late into the night on deadlines for work, scheduling blog posts, and planning travel, suppers with friends, or appointments.
If I am sitting still, I instantly start thinking of what else I should be doing. I should be organizing my closet or catching up on that new true crime podcast, or I should update my blog with new photos or I should be working on that design for work. This kind of thought typically consumes me, and to be fair, dates back to when I was in college. My best friend would always comment that if she came over for a movie night or a chill night in, I always ended up folding laundry, or washing dishes, or doing something because I was unable to just sit still. Yet, there is always something that could be or should be done (don’t even get me started on cleaning our hardwoods and dusting). But, does it ultimately matter?
Between all the self-help books, Instagram posts, and pins about how we can constantly improve ourselves, it’s hard to shut it off. And it’s hard to believe that it’s okay for us to relax and truly take time for ourselves. I spent a long time thinking that if I didn’t have a filled calendar, then I was lazy, complacent, and I was wrapped in guilt for not doing more. Yet, by taking time to be with my thoughts, to be still, and to do nothing, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for my surroundings and this life.
By living, and not having every moment of my life scripted, I have started discovering stillness. Last weekend, I spent my Saturday afternoon doing nothing. I was sitting on the porch swing with my book, but instead of reading, and using my time wisely, I just sat. I listened to the birds, drank a cup of tea, and literally just swag for hours. It was exactly what I needed. What was more important, is that I wasn’t on my phone or computer, and I wasn’t thinking of what else I should be doing. To be honest, it rejuvenated me with some new energy and ideas that I took into the work week. This was a huge change for me from where I was working 24/7 without being able to turn my brain off.
It is still taking time, though. It has taken time for me to train my brain into understand that self-care, especially during this time when things can feel frantic and urgent, make me more productive. In the beginning, I scheduled time to do nothing, which may seem counterproductive, but if I have learned anything from scheduling my workouts, I knew this would be an effective strategy for me. Now, it’s become part of my daily routine at home.
Here are ways that I am learning to do nothing:
- Take a walk sans technology. This has been one of my favorite parts of the day. David and I take the boys for a walk around the neighborhood for about an hour with no technology. After sitting in front of a screen all day for work, this is my favorite way to start my evening and decompress.
- Turn off screens. When I finish work for the day, I make a habit of putting my devices entirely away. I am even finding myself on my cell phone less often. I am using my time in the evenings to talk with David, catch up on reading magazines, and reading books. I’m currently reading this one.
- Take a nap. On Saturday, I found myself napping in the afternoon instead of organizing my closet. I couldn’t tell you the last time I did something like that, and I’m not going to lie, I didn’t hate it.
- Name your emotions. I have found it important during this time to name how I’m feeling. I’ve never been big on emotional displays or letting that dictate my decisions. Yet, during this time, it has been helpful because it helps me to acknowledge why I might need a break. If I’m feeling anxious about the future or overwhelmed by the current situation, it encourages me to take some time to breathe through it.
- Journal. Call it the historian in me, but I enjoy writing in a journal and keeping a primary source for this time. I don’t usually use prompts, but if I get stuck, I generally default to what I’m grateful for that day (or in general).
- Watch the sunset. Whether this is on our nightly walks or sitting on the front porch, I really enjoy watching the sunset these days. I have really taken to drinking tea, and having a cup of tea after work is a nice way to unwind, too.
- Meditate. I shared last week that I’ve added meditation to my workouts, but I really do love the 5 minute meditation exercises that CorePower On Demand has available.
- Eat lunch with no distractions. I am notorious for eating lunch while multitasking. Whether it is continuing to work, reading the news, responding to emails, etc., I have not done a great job of just enjoying my lunch. This time has given me an opportunity to do that and I must say, it gives me a nice brain break.
- Sit outside. Sometimes, I take my lunch outside to eat for a little fresh air. Other times, I’m sitting outside to read a couple of chapters out of my book, or to finish up a project for work, or to just watch Winston & Gizmo run around. Keeping in the spirit of doing nothing, sitting outside for 10 minutes has been helpful!
- Take a bath. This is one of my favorite forms of self-care. In the past, I typically multitasked, whether it was scheduling social media posts for the week, reading articles or a book, but now, I use it to just decompress. Here is one of my favorite bath sets right now.
Looking for more tips? This book is where I got some of my inspiration for this post.
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How are you learning to do nothing right now? Let me know in a comment below!